David Cameron on UK Tourism: Industry Reaction

Last week the Prime Minister stressed that tourism would be at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery, and set out his vision for the UK to become one of world’s top five tourist destinations. But was it all rhetoric?

“Quite frankly, right now, we’re just not doing enough to make the most of our tourism,” said David Cameron at the Serpentine Gallery in London last week. “The last government underplayed our tourist industry. Tourism is a fiercely competitive market, requiring skills, talent, enterprise and a government that backs Britain. It’s fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy.”

Tourism is a hugely important economic driver and is one of but a few sectors that if properly supported can offer real growth potential. England in particular is a remarkable destination and a real powerhouse in UK tourism. It alone represents 84 per cent of the total UK tourist value, is worth £97billion, and supports in excess of 2 million jobs.

“It’s one of the best and fastest ways of generating the jobs we need so badly in this country. And it’s absolutely crucial to us making the most of the Olympics and indeed a whole decade of great international sport across Britain.”

In the speech, Cameron made a commitment to developing both domestic and foreign markets, and was particularly keen to attract Chinese visitors. He also outlined that a new strategic plan for tourism would be developed with industry by the end of year.

A new tourism strategy is sorely needed, with the UK slipping from sixth to 11th place in the World Economic Forum’s travel and tourism competitiveness ratings between 2008 and 2009.

World Travel and Tourism Council

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) broadly welcomed the move and looks forward to playing a leading role in developing the new strategy.

“We are delighted that, in challenging economic times, the UK government has recognised the importance of Travel & Tourism,” said Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC President and CEO, “an industry that currently generates more than 3 million jobs or 1 in every 10 in the UK.”

“It can also be one of the most effective and fastest ways of helping to kick-start the economy, recreating prosperity and increasing jobs. This announcement comes at the right moment for the UK to take full advantage of its Olympic opportunity in 2012.”

Tourism Alliance

Similarly, the Tourism Alliance also welcomes the Government’s renewed commitment to tourism and appreciation that it can significantly contribute to the economic recovery. The tourism Alliance believes that tourism has the potential to develop into a £190bn industry for the UK over the next decade.

“Tourism offers significant potential to deliver growth and benefits at both the national and regional level,” explained Tourism Alliance chairman, Ken Robinson. “Just £15 of marketing activity is enough to generate £500 of additional expenditure in the UK economy from overseas visitors. At least £100 of that goes directly to the Exchequer through VAT and Air Passenger Duty. Funding for tourism is an investment, not an expense.”

British Hospitality Association

Ufi Ibrahim, the new chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said that the BHA warmly welcomed Mr Cameron’s enthusiastic approach to the industry.

“It’s completely refreshing to see the prime minister speak so enthusiastically of the value of the industry to the UK economy, and its potential future contribution. This is what the industry has wanted to hear for many years.”

She said the BHA had long been concerned about the lack of joined-up government in which decisions taken by government departments negatively affected tourism without ministers and officials realizing the scale of the impact on the industry.

“We also welcome the focus on encouraging local tourism as a local industry and the ability of local authorities to invest more in tourism locally, though the details of this need to be carefully examined.”

Ms Ibrahim said that the BHA wanted to have a major input into the report on increasing domestic tourism, which tourism minister, John Penrose MP, is preparing and which will be published in October.

“Increasing domestic tourism must be a key objective, but this will demand a huge effort on the part of the industry, local authorities, and governments. We look forward to working to achieve this, so that the tourism industry and the UK economy as a whole can benefit.”

By Vicki Sweetland

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